Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Autism Awareness Month / Day

I am going to veer from plants for a moment to discuss something I am equally passionate about because it is very close to home for me, and that is Autism. I would like to invite each of you to take a moment to recognize National Autism Awareness Month (April) and World Autism Awareness Day (April 2nd) , and to educate yourselves on Autism. I am the very proud Mother of a 14 year old with Autism  and a 22 year old with Asperger’s. I know the struggles and the joys of raising a child with Autism. Our youngest was 4 before he spoke, he didn’t make eye contact, he didn’t like being touched, he was terrified of riding in a car, the vacuum cleaner, a toilet flushing, a picture on a cereal box, the color red and even a television remote. My eldest was labeled “gifted” because he was brilliant beyond years but struggled with common place social cues and still does to this day.

I knew very early something was different with my youngest. He wasn’t interested in playing with other children, he was happy all alone in his own world. I started testing him with the school district at two after our family Dr. told me I was over reacting and if I calmed down about it, it would pass. Follow your instincts, education and early intervention are key for these children. The biggest problem with Autism is that it is a spectrum disorder. Autism has many forms and it is unique to each child which can make it difficult to identify. Many of these kids are labeled as mentally challenged, or difficult and are isolated or drugged. Two years ago, Autism affected one in every 166 children, last year it was 1 in every 150, today, the prediction is that 1 in 88 will be diagnosed with Autism, for boys, it is 1 in 54. My eldest son Cavin was labeled “gifted” at the age of 4, he had very specific interests, spoke and read at a very early age, but later developed behaviors that seemed bazaar and ritualistic. He was genius, but suffered terribly with common sense tasks, short term memory and social situations with his peers. We discovered in his high school and college years that he is Aspergers (very highly functioning Autism).  There are misdiagnoses every day because it looks so unique to each child, but the common thread is that early intervention is essential to their ultimate success. There are many websites ( Autismspeaks. org, wrongplanet. org etc.) but the resources are endless and you would be remiss in not knowing the signs. The information you have may save a neighbor, a grandchild, or your own child.

Early intervention and a lot of persistence is what saved my youngest son who was mute and non respondant. I wasn’t taking no for an answer and by 4th grade he was on the honor role in public school at the same level as his peers. He needs assistance, but he manages and has to work harder than anyone else. He struggles every day. I like to say he goes through life with his left brain tied behind his right, but he does it with such amazing spirit. Autistic children are inspirational and the magic that is contained in their brains is an untapped wonder.

For my oldest son, an early diagnoses may have prevented some of the challenges he currently faces. It is hard to keep a job no matter your talent when you struggle with social cues and memory for short term tasks. Though he is brilliant and would prosper in a nurturing environment, we just aren’t there yet with employers as there is not enough education and understanding.

I would also like to take this opportunity to ask you all to speak to your children and grandchildren about Autism and about bullying. My youngest son deals with bullies and isolation, some children simply do not understand that they are being cruel and would do better if they understood the seriousness of their actions. Bullying is NOT  “kids being kids”… it is cruel and it changes a person’s perception of themselves. We need to teach our children empathy and it will be a great life lesson for them. It is also  important to teach our children to reach out to these kids and include them, otherwise how will they ever know how amazing a child with Autism really is, and what a great friend they could be.

This might be a great opportunity to get your kiddo’s outside to plant a tree, rose or special plant in honor of those with IMG_2600Autism and their families. Since Blue is the national Autism color, maybe you could plant Bluebonnets, Blue Plumbago or Blue Salvia as a few great choices. This is also a great way to make the Autism connection with your children/grandchildren while you are making a connection with them ;-).

Happy Gardening and Happy Autism month to the many families who are blessed to celebrate these amazing children!!

Lisa LaPaso
Proud Mommy of 1 in 54 x 2

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”



  1. Sandra Klassen

    Our non verbal grandson came into our care at age 18 months. Basically he had been *abandoned* in his car seat as the parents worked in the forest cutting trees. We offered free child care and they quickly took our offer. The times we saw them became less and less.
    My work history included tutoring Autistic children, I recognized some symptoms immediately. Non verbal except for screaming, avoiding eye contact walking on tip toes. He was a very hyperactive child, not inquisitive, we said he did not think of things to do.. Early Intervention was the key, as a non verbal child he was admitted into a pre-pre-school program. (speech and language, a great psychologist, , early school intervention with Each day as I drove him to pre school I sang to him, knowing this is a different area of the brain. There came a day, age 4 he grabbed my sleeve.. (Initiating Contact!) A very guttural voice said *Gamma* I pulled over beginning to weep. He pointed “Look at the John Deer Tractor over there” I had sung those words for a few years by then.
    He became astute, comment one day from the back seat on seeing the northern Lights.. “I know what that is, it’s God’s lantern don’t you see how He carries it across the sky?”
    He was very open for exploitation, even while he was being exploited by other students they were still his best friends..
    In high school he excelled in Math, completing complex math problems without writing them down. Unfortunately he was dysgraphic, he could barely sign his name despite every modification we could try for him.. Much to our worry he didn’t understand he could NOT go home with another student without asking us, we spent many sleepless nights not knowing who he had gone home with.
    WE allowed him to leave school in grade ten, he was by then he said unable to follow much except the math. A scribe assisted him, yet he had to process the information before the scribe could complete the answers.
    Even then he worked very well *beside* his grandfather. He followed directions well and as long as he was supervised at the beginning of a chore he was able to complete it, such as using a power drill to complete putting on fence boards.
    We still had a dilemma, what to do to assure he was in other care before our own health issues were more present. We had previous hopes of some travel , plans of renewing our own relationship.
    Mentoring, a compassionate team of ten, an excellent group home has been the answer for him and for us. He has just renewed his learners drivers license, he works in a program for adults with mental health issues, so he collates and delivers flyers. He does yard work being an excellent gardener, (Having worked beside Grampa for so long,) He used to enter his own plants in a horticultural show and would win because there wasn’t much competition in his age group. With his mentor he does volunteer work making and delivering firewood to elderly people on a First Nations reserve, gardening on this same First Nations reserve.. of course attending cultural events in the same village. He is not First Nations yet I feel he can contribute and participate with dignity and respect. It is a fact of life we live in a primarily First Nations Province. (Saskatchewan) WE were able to travel to Maui this past January, a first trip in 22 years. WE could have gone sooner, could have had respite at our own cost, yet experience taught us respite was a step backward. He had to relearn many social issues on returning home..
    Bio mom is still in the picture, the team now sees she may have fewer skills than her son. She is my step daughter. Other family members have similar ‘abilities’ another grandson of my husbands’ second daughter has also a spectrum of autism present with huge anger issues… I feel the anger is untapped intelligence, his inability to co operate with work or schedules. His speech is mumbled, he is still running on tip toes he is now a 200 pound 13 yr old. Oh I’d love to take him camping for a weekend or more with nothing but a the basics!

    Recommended Reading:SonRise Barry Neil Kauffman
    •Christopher John Francis Boone I: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

    Gilles Tréhin:The City inside My Head

    I can’t find reference to the man in India who said *I think we must be mankind’s newest mutation*

    Joyfully I would agree..
    Sandra Dogger Klassen

    • thank you for sharing Sandra, thank goodness these young people come into our lives. They give us a sense of purpose, a blessing of hope and a perspective of heroism we would not otherwise experience.

  2. Liz Ndukamma

    My husband of two years has Aspergers. It’s such a debilitating and emotional draining condition. Thanks for your positive energy.

    • Liz, I completely understand your situation. It is hard for those who love them to help navigate in their world and they go through a lot of their lives compensating which can be exhausting for everyone involved. Fortunately. They also have a unique perspective on life that are gifts to those of us who live with them. They remind us not to take things for granted, to remember that we all can grow and adjust every day and that it is important to check in with ourselves. My youngest gets frustrated with his Stimming and I remind him that if the rest of us had “steam valves” like he does when he is over whelmed, it would be a much nicer world. Best of all to you both. Enjoy the ride whenever you can!

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